The knee is a very complex part of the body, and it gets a lot of use. In fact, the knee is the largest joint in the body. This joint is made up of the lower end of the thigh bone, or femur, and the upper part of the tibia, or shin bone. The kneecap slides along a groove on the femur and covers the front of the joint. Finally, the meniscus and cartilage protect the bones by cushioning them and absorbing impact. Injuries to the knees, like spinal injuries, can be incredibly painful and can take a good deal of care and time to heal. This is especially true when knees are injured in an accident, during a slip, trip, or fall. Knee injuries do not occur just in the bone, but can extend to the ligaments, tendons, or the bursae (fluid filled sacs around the knee joint). There are four different kinds of ligaments in the knee, including the LCL (lateral collateral ligament), ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), the MCL (medial collateral ligament), and the PCL (posterior collateral ligament).
Of these ligaments, the ACL, perhaps, is the most likely to be injured. This kind of tear often happens when there is a sudden twisting motion. In contrast, the PCL is also commonly injured, but these injuries typically occur when there is a sudden, direct impact to the knee. An ACL injury is more likely to happen when a person slips (or falls) and a PCL injury is more likely to happen during a car accident. These kind of injuries often can be treated using muscle-strengthening exercises, the use of a protective knee brace, or the application of heat/ice. In some cases, if these treatments are ineffective, a doctor may suggest surgery.
Two kinds of knee surgeries are common. The first, arthroscopic knee surgery, is not as invasive as open knee surgery. Arthroscopic surgery uses an type of endoscope that is inserted into the joint through a small incision. This causes less damage to the connective tissue and allows for faster recovery. The procedure is often used to treat torn floating cartilage, torn surface cartilage, or in ACL reconstruction. Because open surgery is so much more invasive, it is usually reserved for instances where the joint must be opened or where the small incisions and tools used in arthroscopic surgery just won’t do the job. In very severe cases, knee arthroplasty – or a full knee replacement – can help an injured party to gain relief. Of course, the more intense and invasive the procedure, the longer the recovery time involved. Even after a successful operation, the patient may have some permanent residual problems with the joint, like discomfort or functional limitations.
So, protect your knees and watch your step at home and when out at a store, restaurant or other business. If you see a slip or trip hazard at a business, bring it to the management’s attention, so they will know to correct it before someone gets hurt.